AN ANALYTICAL BOOK REVIEW OF “LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME” 5
AnAnalytical Book Review of “Lies My Teacher Told Me”
AnAnalytical Book Review of “Lies My Teacher Told Me”
JamesLoewen’s ‘Lies my teacher told me’ is a critical analysis ofmodern American history books that students use while attending theirhistory classes. In his opinion, Loewen states that most of thesebooks contain incorrect information about people and events that haveshaped the history of both America and its culture. Loewen discussesthe lies and inaccuracies that these records present to the studentsregarding the events that took place between the two parties, thisbeing the colonists and Native Americans(Loewen, 1996). In his capacity as a critic, Loewen attempts to painta society in which imperfection was present and perfectly reasonableas opposed to the make believe that the said books try to put out.He also seeks to set the record straight about most of the historicalfacts documented. The book criticizes the illusive and incorrectideas concerning America’s role in slavery and the slave trade. Thepurpose of this essay is to review the book by James Loewen.
Loewenstarts by looking at how these texts treat historical figures whoplayed significant roles in shaping the country. These includeWoodrow Wilson, Christopher Columbus, and Helen Keller. James statesthat when these books elevate American historical giants to epicstatus, they deliberately give students the impression that thesepeople are superhuman and that they lived in a moment that cannot beretrieved. It can be argued that this history-mythical approachteaches students that America’s best moments have come and gone.
Whenkeenly examined, Loewen is a realist who acknowledges that there is aneed to brand the atrocities committed on Native Americans asinhuman. Instead of teaching learners that the people whoparticipated in such injustices are heroes, there it is imperative todisclose the truth. Loewen sets out to show the manner in which raceis systematically misrepresented in the said textbooks. For instance,he states that history overlooks the “verifiable” discoveriesattributed to America before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.These publications hide the role that Columbus played in the genocideand slavery, and instead they portray him as a scholarly explorer(Loewen, 1996).The author then notes that these texts also intentionally hide therole that European diseases played in clearing the Native Americans,both in the Caribbean and at Plymouth. In the book, Loewen statesthat historical books mythologize and absolve the “Pilgrim Fathers”of any wrongdoing. With time the same people are celebrated duringannual festivals to perpetuate these myths. By contending this views,it can be stated that Loewen is indeed a realist.
Loewenviews also divulge that racism is a historical problem that hasaffected the American society. In the real sense, it is a problemeven today. As noted by various scholars what happens in historyinfluences the future. Loewen reveals that racial tension has runthroughout colonial time and in the early history of the nation,especially in relations with the Native Americans. The author thenrefers to the plight of African Americans and the manner in whichthey are portrayed in these books(Loewen, 1996).Loewen asserts that racism is one other invisible factor in thebooks. He believes that the issue is not aptly defined in the booksand this is necessary in order to justify the institution of slaveryand to advocate for its abolition. He says that slavery turns overtlyracial for the Europeans when it becomes profitable, especially inColumbus’ time and in the 19thcentury. It is justified since it is acknowledged as the backbone ofthe South’s cotton economy. Loewen notes that it comes as asurprise to many when the Northern whites, who believed in blackinferiority, join the fight to abolition slavery.
Loewen’sbook is an eye opener to the realities of social stratification. Thisvery crucial issue is not discussed in these books leading to thelack of information to the readers. The author notes that notdiscussing this issue leaves students lost in a society aimed atpromoting social inequality. A situation that is not part of theAmerican way of living. Loewen highlights that other topics likeecology are purposely left out. Again, post-World War II governments’snafus in addressing both the foreign policy and Civil RightsMovement agendas are considered as rosy state victories(Loewen, 1996).Furthermore, the Vietnam War and other near –current events areleft to slip the “memory hole” so that the issue can end up withuplifting, super-patriotic projections of the American progress.
MyOpinion of the Book
Ithink that people who value social justice and provision of correcteducational content to learners will find the book interesting. In myopinion, the views propagated by Loewen are factual, and they can beused by authors to change the manner in which the American history ispresented.
Theauthor believes that muting of the past events that have shaped thehistory of this country makes history boring to the students,especially if those students consist of groups that have beenincluded in the positive aspects of history. He also believes that itwould be better if the students were taught and made to believe theactual truth. The move will facilitate proper understanding of thehistory of America. With this in hand, the student can decipher theevents that took place and relate them to what happens today. Whenthis occurs, the reader can accurately relate to proceedings of thefuture. The author also tries to challenge the aspect that contrarytruth is not truth and advocates that it would be preferable ifactual events are portrayed as they took place. The author believesthat the outcome of the past developments is that history as asubject becomes irrelevant to students if happenings are notpresented in a factual way.
Loewen,J.W. (1996).  LiesMy Teacher Told Me:  Everything Your American History Textbook
GotWrong. New York: Simon & Schuster.